Even though cybercrime is increasing worldwide, Africa saw a steady decline in mobile malware attacks in 2021. According to Tech Target, malware attacks occur when cybercriminals use malicious software designed for smartphones to access someone’s private information and data. Compared to 2020, Mozambique users faced 48% fewer mobile malware attacks in 2021, while Nigeria saw a 59% decrease. South African users also saw a 38% decline last year in attacks on mobile devices. The question is, why?
Typically, when there is an increase in mobile phone ownership and social media usage (which there has been in African regions), this digitization creates more opportunities for cybercriminals to disguise malicious applications as legitimate apps that can be downloaded from mobile app stores like Google Play. Yet, Africa has seen a considerable drop in mobile attacks, with Angola as the exception. Attacks on mobile devices in the Southern African nation increased by 12% last year.
Declining Mobile Malware Attacks in African Regions
Still, there was a visible transformation in 2021 from the year prior. While on the surface this may seem like a good thing, industry experts have expressed their concerns with the recent decline in mobile malware attacks in Africa. Many suspect cybercriminals are approaching the mobile threat landscape differently, moving away from threats that security programs have previously neutralized. Instead, experts believe cybercriminals are capitalizing on newer, more complex malware.
As a result, it’s even more crucial that citizens implement good cybersecurity practices across different areas. While it’s important to avoid downloading unknown mobile apps, experts also recommend that people use different online passwords for all of their accounts. For example, that means not using the same password for online banking as social media since this makes a potential hacker’s job much easier.
Keep in mind that all of these different passwords also have to be strong, which means avoiding the use of someone’s first name, last name, date of birth, and even their pet’s name. Earlier this year, ExpressVPN’s password selection study showed that the strongest passwords are a combination of random symbols, letters, and numbers that have no meaning to that particular individual and are between 12 to 15 characters in length. But many people don’t adhere to these best practices.
Experts also recommend that people use a reliable security solution to protect the security of their finances, especially as ransomware attacks become more personalized, with hackers using penetration tools to conduct these attacks in real-time. As highlighted by this Check Point article, ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts someone’s computer files, and the only way to regain this information is by paying a ransom. This personalization and advancement of other types of cybercrime could explain the recent decrease in mobile malware attacks in Africa, but it does not mean the continent won’t see a jump in other areas of cybercrime moving forward.
Even if mobile malware attacks decreased last year in Africa does not mean the continent won’t see another spike. This steady decline from 2020 could just mean cybercriminals are moving away from mainstream threats and into areas that have not yet been neutralized.
The key to avoiding becoming a cybercrime victim is having good cybersecurity practices, including avoiding downloading unknown mobile apps on an app store and having strong passwords for all online accounts containing personal information.
ALSO READ: CYBERSECURITY TIPS FOR EMERGING COMPANIES